May 17th, 2013
This is a legitimate question. The claim that God could have created us in the state of heaven avoiding all this evil and suffering in the world is a nuanced version of the problem of evil. If we are going to heaven and our telos, our purpose and end, is to worship God and enjoy him forever in heaven then why didn’t God skip this earthly step? Surely, one may think that there’s a possible world in which we all exist in heaven. It’s my contention that the instantiation of heaven alone is not a possible world.
Aside from other theodicies and defenses such as soul-making, perhaps the most relevant to this question, I think it’s critical to understand that heaven isn’t some lone possible state of affairs by itself. Heaven is, necessarily, a contingent state of affairs. It’s a consequent, if and only if, there are prior antecedent conditions or states of affairs. Heaven is a result of our choices during this life. In other words, this earthly life is a necessary condition for heaven to be brought about (aside from the salvific will of the Father and saving power of Christ, I’m merely stating that this life must precede heaven.
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May 11th, 2013
The teaching of Scripture seems to assert that post-Genesis 3 humans possess libertarian free will, including freedom to choose between opposites on matters pertaining to salvation or any other spiritual good. This immediately raises questions surrounding the concept of original sin. Augustine first used the expression “original sin” in the wake of the Pelagian controversy. Upon arriving at Rome in A.D. 400, the British monk Pelagius was horrified to see the open immorality prevalent among so-called Christians. This was the direct result of Theodosius I nineteen years earlier (381) declaring Christianity to be the state religion so decreeing that anyone living within its borders to be Christian. This was a transformation of Christianity from a voluntary religion (one that people freely choose to join) to a natural religion (one into which people are born) spawned immense immorality in many people who bore the name of Christ without ever having personally committed their lives to Jesus. Pelagius exhorted the Romans to live worthy of their Christian calling with an argument logically summarized in two steps:
1. Humans possess libertarian free will.
2. Humans should use their libertarian freedom to be good enough people to earn their own salvation.
Unfortunately, as so often happens in the history of thought, one extreme position meets the response of an equally extreme opposing position, thus swinging the ideological pendulum from one side to the other. Very rarely is prudence taken in shifting the pendulum back to the center, where the truth is most likely to be found.
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September 15th, 2012
Below is just a brief abridged outline of the key distinctions among the four early Jewish groups: Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, and the Essenes.
- The Pharisees are the most often mentioned group in the NT. 100 BC to AD. The name means to separate (from the Hasmoneans? From ritually unclean?). They were very emphatic about the need to be clean (i.e. not touching a dead body). They were strict on tithe laws, the Sabbath, and divorce laws. It was voluntary participation to become a Pharisee. They were all over Israel. They wore distinct clothing and were as many as 6,000. They were Am-Haaretz (people of the land). Some were scribes and some were not. They were mentioned 100 times in the NT and were heavily criticized by the NT, rabbis after AD 70 and Qumran.
- Pharisees were strict legalists. They were less into politics and more into religion. They focused on externals and not the heart.
- Pharisaic doctrine
- Immortality of the soul
- Judgment based on works
- Strong Messianic hope
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June 25th, 2012
Just because you’ve read the Bible do you think that you know God? You could probably predict what Hebrew word was used for a specific word based on the context… but you’ve never felt the passion behind David’s imprecatory prayers and the prayers of suffering. You can parse every Greek word Paul uses in the book of Romans… but you’ve never felt the riddance and self-betrayal like he felt in chapter seven.
You can tell me how to encourage someone or what to do when counseling a depressed friend… but you can’t put yourself in his mind and ask yourself what it’s like to be him. You equate by analogy. You can tell me how much you love your neighbor… but you condition it. You can tell me how much God loves you… but you can’t understand the death of God and his spiritual and physical anguish as he passed from death to new life with you in mind.
You can quote Scripture, Ephesians 6 and the psalms, describing spiritual warfare and what to do… but you’ve never resisted sin to the point of blood. You can quote theological works that systematically define God and who he is… but you’ve never experienced what it’s like to align planets and create stars, to watch you spit on his creation and cross, the gifts he gave for you for the very reason of your anticipated existence.
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June 12th, 2012
A few years ago Ken Keathley, Professor of Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, presented a paper at the SBC’s Building Bridges Conference. Keathley is a Molinist and the title of his paper [on election] was “How to be a Consistent Infralapsarian.” This paper was the primary content in the chapter on election in his book Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach. There is an audio version of his presentation but all the links I found online were broken. Be sure to download the draft of the paper in the link above and read through it. He outlines a very robust model of election and reprobation. (As a Molinist I, of course, affirm much of what he argues.) Nonetheless, you cannot deny that he is being biblical and consistent in his model of election.
I had a review of Salvation and Sovereignty published in the Midwestern Journal of Theology you can read. Concerning Keathley’s chapter on election, his paper, this is what I had to say:
Keathley’s understanding of sovereign election, which he calls “consistent infralapsarianism,” follows from his understanding of overcoming grace. Under this view, God elects all individuals who would freely cease to resist his saving grace. God will so arrange the world, via strong and weak actualizations, to bring about a person’s experiences and circumstances in which they would freely refrain from rejecting him.
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June 8th, 2012
Irenaeus, in Against Heresies, 4.37.2-3, averred in the face of Gnostic determinism that the prophetic rebukes for spiritual evil and exhortation of spiritual good presupposed human ability to obey, as did the religious teachings of Jesus. Hence both Old and New Testaments substantiated the self-determination of humanity. By libertarian freedom I mean that our freedom is a derived freedom, humans are not completely independent or completely autonomous. In Molinism, unlike Calvinism, God is completely sovereign over the eternal destinies of a world of libertarian free creatures who have, in Augustinian terminology, “free choice” and not merely “free will.” For Augustine, “free choice” (i.e. libertarian free will) entailed the freedom to choose between opposites in both the physical and spiritual realms. Thus fallen humanity, by virtue of the imago Dei, can freely choose whether or not to respond to God’s prevenient grace. By contrast, Augustine defined “free will” (i.e. compatibilist free will) as the ability to choose without any external constraint between the options compatible with one’s nature. On this view, unregenerate humans, due to original sin, lack the ability to choose between spiritual good and evil. Just as a bad tree can bear bad fruit or no fruit at all, unregenerate humanity can either perform spiritual wickedness by actively rebelling against God or do nothing spiritual at all by displaying passivity toward God. 
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May 30th, 2012
The Matthean account of Jesus pronouncing judgment on the cities of Choarzin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum may be found in Matthew 11.20-24. This passage of Scripture contains a historical context of six particular cities that were condemned for their depravity. The following contains a grammatico-historical examination of the text, which is an example of the doctrine of revelatory judgment applied, a verse often used to support the soteriological problem of evil, and is a problem passage for the doctrine of transworld damnation. The purpose of Jesus’ pronouncement of judgment on these cities was to convey the depravity of man.
II. A Grammatico-Historical Exegesis
Before any critical examination of the text can be made a conclusion on the genre must be established. The book of Matthew is a Gospel, which is a genre in and of itself. Many studies performed in modern scholarship of the Gospel literature link the Gospels with Hellenistic biography. Hellenistic biographers did not feel compelled to include all periods of an individual’s life or to narrate in chronological order. The selected events were carefully ordered to promote a particular ideology. In slight contrast to Hellenistic biographies, Robert Guelich proposes formal and particular genera for the Gospels:
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May 13th, 2012
I’m sure some of you are aware of this but you can view high resolution digital images of Codex Sinaiticus online.
Codex Sinaiticus is one of the most important books in the world. Handwritten well over 1600 years ago, the manuscript contains the Christian Bible in Greek, including the oldest complete copy of the New Testament. Its heavily corrected text is of outstanding importance for the history of the Bible and the manuscript – the oldest substantial book to survive Antiquity – is of supreme importance for the history of the book… continue reading.
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